An oil company should be given another two years to decide whether its site in West Sussex is viable, planners recommended today.
Planning permission for the Broadford Bridge site near Billingshurst expires at the end of this month.
The operator, UKOG is seeking an extension until March 2022 to allow it to examine data from other sites in the Weald to assess whether Broadford Bridge will produce oil commercially.
A report by county council planners, published today, recommended the extension be approved, with 15 conditions. It said the impact on people and the environment would be “minimal”.
A decision by West Sussex councillors is due next week (24 March 2020).
The planners’ report concluded:
“Overall, the extensions of time to enable an overarching evaluation of the results of hydrocarbon exploration are considered to have minimal impacts on people or the environment, and would help to meet an identified need for hydrocarbon exploration and appraisal.”
The planners said the applications met local and national planning policy. They said:
“It is recommended, therefore, that planning permission be granted for both applications subject to the conditions.”
This is the third application for more time at Broadford Bridge.
In its application, UKOG said it would assess the prospects for Broadford Bridge using data from tests at Horse Hill and wells, yet to be approved or drilled, at Dunsfold.
If data confirmed the Broadford Bridge site were viable, UKOG said it would submit a new planning application for production. If it were not viable, the Broadford Bridge well would be plugged and abandoned and the site restored to farming, the company said.
Horsham Borough Council did not object to the application but both West Chiltington and Pulborough parish councils did. There were 413 public objections and 125 representations in support.
The planners said the impact of the proposals on residents was not considered unacceptable.
They accepted that Broadford Bridge was an industrial site in a rural setting, but said it was well-screened and so the impact on landscape and visual amenity was acceptable.
The number of vehicles visiting the site were not enough to raise concerns about highway capacity or road safety, the planners said.
“The retention of the site would not involve any activity, has limited visibility and would be temporary in nature.”
“The impacts of the development would be controlled through the planning regime as well as through the environmental permitting and health and safety regimes to ensure that water quality would not be compromised.”
- Next week’s meeting is also due to consider plans by Angus Energy for well testing at Balcombe. Planners have recommended refusal on that application. More details here